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What is Water Security and How Does it Impact the Packaging Industry?

Sustainability
globe in a water droplet

When discussing sustainability, plenty of people put sole focus on the “Three R’s of the environment” – reduce, reuse, recycle. However, while those are essential to environmental conservation, they are far from the only important aspects of sustainability

Water is a key sustainability factor and is becoming more important as time goes on. It is vital to our communities, landscapes, and quality of life, but regions of the US are already facing higher water demand than can be sustained by current resources – we see this reflected in the current water shortage in the Colorado River Basin.

Anyone who has reached for a glass of water knows first-hand that water is vital to life. But is also vital to our communities, landscapes, and manufacturing operations. The World Economic Forum identified water insecurity as one of the top economic threats in recent Global Risk Reports. With this in mind, it is important for businesses to understand the impact of water on their long-term performance and viability.

Water sustainability and the packaging industry

The Sustainable Water Partnership defines water security as “the adaptive capacity to safeguard the sustainable availability of, access to, and safe use of an adequate, reliable and resilient quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems, and productive economies.” The importance lies not only in quantity but in the quality and consistency of the water source.

Water is a shared resource, and activity that impacts the availability or quality of local water resources, positively or negatively, often garners a lot of attention. How a company impacts water resources in the communities in which it operates will only become more important in the public discourse in coming years. This can pose risk for a company, but also considerable opportunity.

The paper industry has been a leader in sustainable water use in manufacturing for many years. Water reduction and reuse strategies have been widely implemented across the industry and many opportunities for water use efficiencies have been realized. The industry is now shifting toward water sustainability actions that utilize partnerships in the value chain to minimize impacts on water resources.  

What is Green Bay Packaging doing?

Green Bay Packaging, Green Bay Packaging - Green Bay Mill Division, Net-Zero Water Use, UL Validation

Green Bay Packaging (GBP) has been innovating in water sustainability for years and is committed to doing our part to support water resource management in the communities in which we operate. In 1992, GBP’s Green Bay Mill was one of the first in the world to operate a closed-loop process water system. GBP continues leading innovation in our industry with operation of a world class circular water system. In 2021, GBP achieved the first ever net-zero validation from UL for its water system. The new 100% recycled mill in Green Bay, WI reclaims wastewater from offsite sources and extensively recycles water onsite to achieve water circularity. UL uses rigorous scientific analysis to determine the accuracy of manufacturers’ sustainability claims. Products bearing the UL Environmental Claim Validation Mark undergo routine audits and testing to retain their status.

Water circularity through reclamation and reuse is at the core of our water strategy. In fact, 89% of all water GBP withdraws is reused at least once before discharge, including 73% of freshwater withdrawn by our Arkansas Kraft Mill. At our new mill in Green Bay, every gallon of freshwater is reused approximately 32 times before it goes through an onsite anaerobic wastewater treatment system. Across our 35+ locations, GBP reuses four times the amount of water it withdraws, meaning each gallon of water that is withdrawn is reused an average of 4 times. The majority of treated process wastewater is then recirculated onsite and a portion of it is discharged to a nearby municipal treatment partner as part of a the “circular water” system whereby treated wastewater is returned to the mill to offset freshwater demand. While you cannot make paper without some water, this mill optimizes alternative water sources to achieve a “net-zero water use”.

Together, we can make an impact…

Water is and will continue to be a contextual issue, with exciting opportunities to partner with stakeholders to improve the impact in local communities and watersheds and reduce impacts. From sustainable forest management to local partnerships to improve the quality and longevity of local water sources, Green Bay Packaging is leading the way in water innovation and sustainable packaging, and we invite you to join us.

To learn more about what Green Bay Packaging is doing and the recent Net Zero Water Validation from UL visit the sustainability page on our website.

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